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THE MERCIES OF REDEEMING LOVE.
A SERMON FOR GOOD FRIDAY.
ROMANS, CHAPTER 5, VERSES 7, 8, 9.
"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."
WE are here met together on this most sacred day, for the performance of a serious and impressive part of Christian duty, the hearing and dwelling upon the great and solemn deed which was completed, as on this very day; when, of our redemption from eternal punishment, as perfected in the death of Christ, the merciful, the suffering Jesus Himself declared "It is finished.". A wonderful mystery this, which even "the angels desire to look into;" man pardoned in the propitiatory sacrifice of another, and that other no less than "God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself."
If then, this solemn truth, these our outward observances, make any real impression upon our minds, as matter in which every
single person is as much and as nearly concerned, as though eighteen hundred years ago he had himself stood among the crowd, and beheld the scene of Calvary; if our hearts be in the slightest degree touched with the real belief of these things, we shall be prepared to follow in deep attention that solemn train of thought and instruction, which the passage of Holy Scripture now read, brings before us.
No language which the ear could receive, or the human spirit understand, could ever convey to our full understanding, what it is to be redeemed from the punishment due to sin, by the vicarious sufferings of the Son of God. But still the Holy Apostle was directed to illustrate the love of God herein, in the way which we can apply, in its poor propor tion, to the immensity of the truth intended to be made manifest. Scarcely for a righteous man," a man in high esteem for his integrity of heart and life, useful in his generation, as one who acts uprightly, scarcely for such" will one die." We are too fallen in
our nature, so to love and prize abstracted worth, as to make a sacrifice in its behalf, of that which costs us much. The just and upright man commands our veneration, and receives his praise, But should he require, in the changes and events of this human pilgrimage, the aid of some fellow pilgrim to the
extent of that other's life, where will love so ardent be found, as to bring a self-devoted one forward in a more righteous brother's stead? Yet, "saith the Apostle, peradventure for a good man," a man whose whole soul, warmed by the pure spirit of a holy charity, one to whose love and goodness, under God, we are ourselves indebted for some gracious deed of human affection and goodwill, for such an one," some would even dare to die." The soul of a thoughtful one would be arrested by the remembrance of love and kindness exercised upon himself, and would, in real gratitude for the recollection of such a deed, be brought a willing surrenderer of his all, his very life itself, upon some strong and urgent circumstance of his benefactor's impending ruin. But still so dear is life, so strong the natural fear of dying, that few would be found among the thousands and ten thousands of our fellow creatures, who, even for a good and merciful man, would be content to give up their lives: it is only "peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die."
See, then, the contrast of Divine love and human unworthiness, thus heightened by an illustration which all can understand. Scarce and difficult as is the sacrifice of man's interests for a deserving fellow creature's good,
yet "God commended his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
It is not for the tongue of men or of angels, to tell what our redemption really is in all its mysterious circumstances.
Here was a race of created beings, endued with power to stand firm in the commandment of their Maker; and yet, against a holy and awful threat, they fell from God. The covenant was broken; the sinner had incurred the penalty, and in the trembling concealment of the first offender from the accustomed and gracious presence of his Maker, nothing seemed to be left, but that some dreadful infliction, unknown in its bitterness, should take place. And yet it was not so.
God even then commended his love to the new created. He heard their excuse, and passing over, at first, the remembrance of their own personal guiltiness, and going in judgment to the first author of sin, in his condemnation there, he added a bright hope for fallen man.
Some future deliverer, a triumphant adversary to the evil one, was mercifully promised even before the sentence was pronounced upon those, who had wilfully, though tempted, broken the law.
This gracious promise proceeded from Di
vine grace triumphing, in a future Saviour, over the penalty of disobedience.
But, at the same time, no compromise was made of the most severe and exact justice. Punishment had been incurred under the solemn threat of God, "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die," and punishment must be paid.
As far as the infliction of temporal evil was intended, man, the sinner, has, indeed, suffered severely; and some portion of the extent of that suffering can even here be measured by ourselves.
The difference between a state of sinful obedience and unmixed Paradisaical happiness may be somewhat imagined by what we feel, and by what we know ourselves to be; but there can be no adequate estimate formed of the tremendous contrast, save only by the first man who had experienced his portion in the state of innocence.
The ills, then, of the threat, as far as this life is concerned, we all experience; and we must each pass on to the threatened remaining portion of all earthly ill, in going "through the valley of the shadow of death."
But in the Divine adjudication of punishment for the broken laws of immutable and perfect justice, there is another dying, after this mortal course shall cease, which has